LAHORE, October 29th: There is a growing trend of engaging domestic help, particularly in cities. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, 74 per cent of the labour work force is engaged in the informal sector, of which domestic workers are the biggest chunk.
Yet despite that, there are no clear laws to guarantee domestic workers their rights as they do not fall under the social security net. However, the following laws apply in certain cases.
Minimum wage rule
The minimum wage for a labourer in the Sindh is fixed at Rs11,000. However, because no law accepts domestic workers as labourers, this rule does not apply to them, even though their working-hours sometimes exceed those of a labourer’s. Their salaries remain far less.
Umme Laila Azhar, the executive director of HomeNet Pakistan, a non-government organisation working for home-based workers and domestic servants, said domestic workers are termed unskilled workers but they are not registered or acknowledged as such anywhere in Pakistan. “There is no mechanism to ascertain their salaries, perks, or terms of job,” she said.
Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act
Domestic workers can register harassment complaints against their employers under the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act. The procedural requirements, however, are not fulfilled in many cases because the first complaint has to be filed with an internal office committee. In case of domestic workers, this requirement would be impossible to meet. However, domestic workers can take advantage of this law to get an FIR registered against their employers.
Domestic child servants
Article 25-A of the Constitution states that it is responsibility of the state to extend the right to free education to every child. This is violated in the case of domestic child servants.
Most of them have to stay with their employers away from their homes. The situation is termed “contemporary form of slavery”, used to refer to domestic child labour in the country.
“They are not entitled to several basic rights, including the right to education, the right to medical treatment or the right to live with parents. In many cases, domestic child servants do not study. In the last three years, some 30 kids who worked as domestic servants have been killed or brutally tortured. “We have been campaigning to urge the government legislate on placing curbs on this and bringing domestic labour under some regulations. “However so far nothing has been achieved in this regard,” Iftikhar Mubarik, a child rights activist, said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2014.